How Being Uncomfortable Can Bring Us Closer to Him.
Early morning, gazing down quietly at my mat, feet soaking up the energy with a long inhale. I look out between the open slats in the blinds to see if the sun has begun to rise. Still black. Then inhale, hands rise. Exhale, fold. Inhale, lengthen halfway. Exhale, right leg back. I pause for an extra breath, loving the way my hips feel in the deep lunge.
Then, inhale plank, exhale chaturanga. Inhale, updog, exhale, down. Pause, an extra breath. Inhale, left leg forward. Uncomfortable. No extra breath just straight into a forward bend. Exhale, fold. Inhale, rise. Exhale, prayer.
I flow through a half dozen more, pausing some to peer into the graying darkness as the sun makes itself known. Then step wide into a few standing poses. Triangle. Relishing the feel of drawing in and expanding out, I spend extra time on my right. Feet go wider, hips open deeper, arms expand further. Ardha Chandrasana. The right side stacks so easily, the left side needs a block this morning. Then, lowering down, resting in belasana on a bolster, head to the left. Start my timer, let go of time and just breathe, hips settling, spine relaxing. The timer goes off, time to switch sides. I lift, turn my head to the right and attempt to let go of time again. Neck kink, spine stiffens. Uncomfortable. The three minutes are very long.
Then the realization comes. My practice is comfortable. One sided. Shallow. Yes, I get on my mat each morning, yeah me, but only do poses that feel good. I don’t push myself on my own. I go a little into discomfort, but don’t really work deep. Not like when in a group class and having to “prove” something. I do the poses that make me feel pretty and strong, avoiding the ones that tweak my ego by accentuating my thick middle.
How much is this just like our daily walk with Christ? We do a cute devotional in our Bible app., and then check it off our to-do list. We fill the red and green boxes to send to some far-off needy children during the holidays. We go to church on Sundays in our cute shoes, but do we really look hard at how we live our faith Monday through Friday? We go deep when on a spiritual retreat or in a special bible study, but where is that fire two months later? We share our faith when comfortable and stay quiet when prompted by the Spirit to speak out about something. We are too embarrassed to share our faith with someone because we are nervous about what they or others will think. Comfortable.
Much like that “kink” in my neck, or tightness in my left hamstring, God sends his Spirit to nudge. Leads us into scenarios that take us out of our comfort zone, to grow us. We can keep doing the pretty poses that our body likes, or we can sit in our uncomfortableness and really work deep within the physical dimensions of our body and open and heal. We can stay put in the situation, instead of making polite conversation as we pass by.
The words of Peter ring true here: ‘Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange was happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4: 12-13
There are memes about how yogis bend so they don’t break. “You are one yoga class away from a good mood”. I do yoga because punching people is frowned upon. Etc. etc. etc.
The one we should flip a bit is an actual quote from B.K.S Iyengar: “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured. If we are truly using yoga to yoke ourselves closer to Christ. Our practice is a physical expression of building spiritual endurance and stamina. We work into our bodies, and the patience we gain on the mat physically can be taken to the street and used spiritually when the trials do come. Our mental fortitude is built on our mats. We must seek out the discomfort, the “problem” poses our earthly bodies balk at. The ones that make us feel inferior. Work into them and through them. Go into our yoga prayer closet and do the good work.
As we start our new year let us seek out or even build a good Christian yoga community around us. One that encourages and pushes us in both our physical practice, but how does the spiritual truly mesh into our flesh. 2 Corinthians 1:7 states it best: And our hope for you is firm because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will share in the comfort. Let us set goals on our mats both physically and spiritually that not only stretch our bodies but our faith. Share our goals. We need community. We need to grow. We need to be uncomfortable sometimes. Pearls are only made through the discomfort. Diamonds through extreme pressure. Then we can truly appreciate Hebrews 10:36 “For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what is promised.”